How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Monday, May 15, 2006

Goody Two Shoes

I needed a pair of shoes to complete my stage outfit, so another trip into town was on the cards. After accomplishing my primary mission I decided to try a couple of shops whose chart-topper potential I had not yet tested.

My first stop was Soul Alley. I had always thought this was a specialist dance shop, but I had been tipped off about the bargain bin by the cash desk, which would, I was told, be worth investigating. I found the appropriate section and started to look through the records.

It wasn’t the treasure trove I had hoped for, being mainly composed of disco and 80s soul, but it included I Love To Love (But My Baby Loves To Dance) by Tina Charles, and Michael Jackson’s One Day In Your Life, recorded in 1975 but Number One in 1981 thanks to a cash-in Motown Gold re-release. Incongruously I also picked up the 300th Number One, Knock Three Times by Dawn, bearing a label identifying the previous owner as Carl Kingston, presumably the same Carl Kingston who presents a show on the Leeds radio station Magic 828.

I walked the short distance to Replay, a record shop I had never visited before despite its being there for several years. The shop was small and cramped and it was difficult to negotiate the racks of CDs. I couldn’t see any singles but I decided to ask, just in case. The man behind the desk made no response to my query and instead turned away and began to scribble on a piece of paper. I stood there awkwardly for a short time, unsure whether I was about to get a written response to my question. Eventually he passed me a note: “I don’t know about CDs, I’m just doing the till. My boss will be back in 5 minutes”.

The reasons for his preferred method of communication remained a mystery. Was he a mute? Had he lost his tongue in a KGB torture chamber? If he had, I didn’t particularly want to find out. I briefly checked again for singles, and convinced myself that there were none, and that it was futile to await the boss’ return.

Time was short if I wanted to beat the rush hour, so I ended my shopping there. I was disappointed to be returning home with just 3 records, so later that evening I picked out another batch of records to buy from Stuart Fraser, and a few days later the postman brought another package full of 7” singles.

I had, in the main, picked records at random from Stuart’s list, but there were four I had chosen deliberately. The first was The Power Of Love by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, in the knowledge that this record gave me a complete set of the 14 Number Ones from 1984. At some point I hope to lay my hands on the 12” version as well, having heard it a few years ago played at the wrong speed, and thinking that the slowed down intro sounded amazing. I may have been drunk, so I need to test my theory.

Similarly I had selected Please Don’t Go/Game Boy by KWS, the last gap to be filled in 1992, and I could forget about 1986 after purchasing West End Girls by the Pet Shop Boys and the Comic Relief version of Living Doll by Cliff Richard & The Young Ones featuring Hank Marvin. Strangely Hank is missing from the list of performers and musicians on the back sleeve, though his name appears on the front cover.

The original version of Living Doll was also here, the only Number One by Cliff Richard & The Drifters before the backing group changed their name to the Shadows. This was toppled in 1959 by Craig Douglas with Only Sixteen (a pale shadow of the Sam Cooke version) which was also included here.

The only other record from the 1950s was All I Have To Do Is Dream/Claudette by the Everly Brothers, but there three from 1960 – Adam Faith’s Poor Me, Lonnie Donegan’s My Old Man's A Dustman (Ballad Of A Refuse Disposal Officer) and the fantastic Good Timin’ by Jimmy Jones, a record I hadn’t heard for years and had totally forgotten about. I was glad to reacquaint myself with it.

Further 60s classics came in the shape of Paint It, Black by the Rolling Stones and Chris Farlowe’s Out Of Time. Hey Jude by the Beatles is great too, though not worthy of the Top 5 place it usually gets in polls of the greatest records ever (I much prefer the B-side, ‘Revolution’). This copy was apparently once owned by a G. King, who had over-enthusiastically staked their claim by writing their name on the label no less than six times. Hey Jude is particularly notable for being the first Number One to include swearing (John Lennon’s cry of “f**king hell” is faint, but unmistakable) and the third longest, lasting for 7 minutes and 11 seconds*.

Another mainstay of the lists and nostalgia shows is the relatively brief (5 minutes and 55 seconds by my calculations) Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, which was here along with the record it succeeded at the top, Billy Connolly’s comic version of D.I.V.O.R.C.E., a juxtaposition which says a lot about the nature of the Number One slot. JJ Barrie’s No Charge adds to the evidence, a sentimental spoken word track which I am pleased to say I had never heard before. Fittingly Stuart threw this one in for free, though I think this was because of the quality of the song rather than its title.

The Roussos Phenomenon, unsurprisingly by Demis Roussos, is the third of the four EPs to be struck off my list. This, in particular the first track ‘Forever And Ever’, will always make me think of Mike Leigh’s TV play ‘Abigail’s Party’. Listening to it now I had a vision of Alison Steadman as the terminally irritating Beverley, a big Roussos fan.

Green Door by Shakin’ Stevens is a record I owned many years ago. The copy I bought in 1981 is probably still sitting somewhere in a dusty box in the loft of my parents’ house, but buying it again now was certainly easier than finding it would have been. The last of the records in Stuart’s parcel was perhaps the worst of the bunch, Hangin’ Tough by New Kids On The Block, the 639th Number One from 1990.

Quality, of course, is not an issue for me, so I was pleased to have all of these, no matter how terrible.

* Any ideas what the two longer ones might be?


  • 11 seconds of Please Don't Go ... what a tease.

    By Blogger Baz, at 5/15/2006 10:37 pm  

  • Eh?

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 5/15/2006 10:57 pm  

  • Think that KWS is special for Baz on account of Des Walker.

    Long song - well Meat Loaf has got to be up there - I don't think that Bat Out Hell got to number one, but I'd Do Anything For Love certainly seemed to go on for hours and hours. Seem to recall that the full version of Thriller was very long as well - at least the video was.

    Het Jude surely was only about 3 mins long, but the refrain carries on for ages cos the monkey in the recording booth was so stoned that he forgot to press the fade out button for a while

    By Anonymous Nik, at 5/16/2006 3:36 am  

  • And if neither of them , then what about that sodding Bryan Adams song?

    By Anonymous Nik, at 5/16/2006 3:43 am  

  • I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That) is the second longest Number One - 7:58 for the full length one.

    'Thriller' wasn't Number One and the record is nowhere near as long as the video - the album version is 5:57 so still too short anyway.

    (Everything I Do) I Do It For You is only 4:10, though seems much longer.

    The monkey in the recording booth would be Sir George Martin, which probably makes you guilty of treason.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 5/16/2006 4:16 am  

  • Everyone knows that the Des Walker thing was just a feeble excuse for publicity. Anyway, back in those days, even if the entire red half of Nottingham had bought the KWS record, it probably still wouldn't have been enough to get to number 1.

    I have a feeling that there is a full length version of Michael Jackson's "Black or white" which was really long. Or again, it might just have been the video...

    P.S. Joe, do you also want a copy of Shaky's "Merry Christmas Everyone"? It was a Xmas present to me at the time (and my first 7" single), but I have no real desire to hang onto it...

    By Blogger Rish, at 5/16/2006 12:41 pm  

  • It's not Black Or White, no. According to iTunes Music Store it's only 3:21.

    Yes please for the Shaky!

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 5/16/2006 1:18 pm  

  • I'm trying to compile a complete playlist of Number Ones myself, though I'm not masochistic enough to hunt down original 7" versions - MP3's culled from CD's is good enough for me !
    Anyhow, I'm fairly sure that the longest Number One record is Oasis's tedious All Around The's about 9 minutes long, if memory serves...

    By Anonymous DazzyHitch, at 5/16/2006 1:24 pm  

  • Yes, All Around The World is the one - 9:38 would you believe.

    So how is your collection going?

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 5/16/2006 1:37 pm  

  • I've just passed the halfway point...I've always been a huge pop music fan, so when I got 'round to ripping my CD collection, I had quite a few already. Trouble is, I've got most of the chart-toppers I like, and am now going to have to plough my way through the novelty records & dross to get a full set. It's great when you discover a hidden gem, though...Have I The Right by The Honeycombs (ripped from a second hand 60's Hits CD) is an absolute belter !

    Love the blog, by the way...good luck with the rest of your search !

    By Anonymous DazzyHitch, at 5/16/2006 1:58 pm  

  • Yeah, Have I The Right is class.

    Glad to hear you're enjoying the blog. Good luck with your own collection, let us know how you get on.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 5/16/2006 2:36 pm  

  • Talking about swearing on Number 1 records...did you know about the use of the c-word on Captain Sensible's Happy Talk ?
    The story goes that there was some sort of equipment failure during the recording session for the song, so the good Captain retired to a nearby pub while it was sorted out.
    In the best punk tradition, he staggered back several hours later, pissed out of his mind, and decided it would be a right good laugh to sneak the c-word into his sugary-sweet song.
    Listen closely about 2.30 into the song, when the Captain croons "Golly baby, I'm a lucky one..." Except, of course, he doesn't say "one" at all!
    I heard this story years ago, and always assumed it was just an urban myth, but when I added the song to my itunes playlist recently, I had another listen...and it's true!

    You can't beat a bit of subliminal subversion in a Number 1 hit !!!

    By Anonymous dazzyhitch, at 5/17/2006 10:52 pm  

  • Hehe, I heard that story before but never checked out whether it was true - I don't have the record yet so when I do I'll have a close listen. I hope you're right ;-)

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 5/18/2006 2:11 am  

  • I can confirm the Captain Sensible story - well, I can confirm that it's there. But I always thought it was Paul swearing on 'Hey Jude'.

    Oh, and I've seen Oasis quoted as the longest Number One too, but I'm sure the 7" single of 'All Around The World' has an edited version, which ought technically to disqualify it.

    Great blog, BTW.

    By Blogger Chris Brown, at 5/18/2006 9:46 pm  

  • I think that Blue Monday deserves a mention - it was 7.5 mins and whilst it only got to #9, it was only on 12" which was a geeky thing to buy back then, so would have been #1 if 7" was available

    By Anonymous Nik, at 5/19/2006 12:53 am  

  • You do realise it's almost 18 months since you embarked on this crazy journey we call pop.

    Can we have a graph of progress versus time please?

    By Blogger Baz, at 5/24/2006 10:34 pm  

  • Yes I do. Graphs coming soon, I hope.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 5/24/2006 11:19 pm  

  • What happened to Echobase?

    By Anonymous Nik, at 6/01/2006 4:05 am  

  • Innit! Everyone was picking on me and then it disappeared! I didn't do nuffink.

    Jo Ward

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/01/2006 7:30 pm  

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